In his dialogue Statesman (= Plt.), Plato first sets out one way of thinking of the statesperson, on the model of a nurturer of a herd such as a shepherd; then he sets out a very different way of thinking of him, on the model of a weaver of a social fabric. Critics have long been wondering whether Plato wants to combine the two models or, on the contrary, to abandon the nurturing model in favour of the weaving model.
This article shows that a particular passage in the dialogue, 275d8–e1, is crucial for this question. As this passage is understood by all commentators and translators, it says that the statesperson is not a nurturer. This ought to have settled the question. But the article argues that we cannot read the passage like that. For an adjacent passage, 275b1–7, says that the statesperson is a nurturer. There is no way out of this contradiction, unless we reconsider the traditional reading of 275d8–e1.
The article defends a different reading of 275d8–e1, which avoids the contradiction. On this new reading, the passage does not say that the statesperson is not a nurturer, it says that her/his being a nurturer is not the grounds for her/him deserving the title ‘statesperson’.